A tornado smashed a tree into a car in College Point. // Twitter photo by Daniel Rosenthal

OPINION: Lessons from the College Point Twister

By Jack Ryan

Eagle Contributor

The recent tornado that tore through a small part of Queens has drawn attention to two areas of concern that require the attention of the City.

According to the National Weather Service, the rare twister “touched down near Saint Fidelis Catholic Church in College Point, knocking down numerous trees and power lines and peeling siding off houses along a path about three-quarters of a mile long and 100 yards wide. The tornado strengthened as it moved toward Powell’s Cove Park, where at least 50 trees were downed … Additional straight-line wind damage occurred from that point eastward to Francis Lewis Park near the Whitestone Bridge.”

Fortunately, the tornado was rated EF-0, the lowest ranking. No one was injured and damage was minimal.

The wreckage of twisted trees helped neighbors to call attention to what they say have been the deteriorating conditions in Powell’s Cove.  In addition to the downed trees that covered the pathways, local residents showed our reporter disgusting photographs of swastikas and other graffiti on the rocks that border the scenic waterfront.

Nearby residents say young people gather in the cove to drink and take drugs. They say poor lighting makes the park feel unsafe at night.

In another consequence of the tornado, residents of College Point and Whitestone say the 50 or more downed trees are a sign that the City needs to do a better job in tree management. They note that while property owners are responsible for trees growing on their own property, they are not responsible for the trees that line the street in front of their houses which belong to the City..

In fact they are not allowed to trim or cut down these trees even if they present a danger. The City needs to do a better job monitoring this situation before someone is hurt by the next tornado or Nor’easter.

The Parks Department told our reporter that: “Assessing overall damage takes time and will happen in tandem with finding and removing fell trees. Since the storm, our crews have been working daily to expedite the clean-up effort.”

As for Powell’s Cove, the Parks Department said the area poses some unique maintenance challenges. “This is a natural site and is not designed in the same way as our play grounds, so site damage is not as easily identifiable.”

This part of Queens remains family friendly with scenic views. This summer, with its drenching rains and the litter washed ashore. has presented the Parks Department with unique challenges. The efforts of this agency are appreciated but more needs to be done. Other neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn remain vulnerable to damaging storms and high winds, especially areas on the waterfront.

As for the graffiti, the problem has gotten better in Queens. But the City needs to continue to come down hard on any vandal that is caught, even if the that person imagines he or she is an artist. One of the best punishments for graffiti is sentencing convicted vandals to 100 or more hours cleaning up the mess left by other graffiti “artists.”

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